Kick-off in the most thrilling and expensive competition across the globe is slowly getting closer. Just thirteen days before Arsenal and Leicester will introduce us to the Premier League of 2017/2018. Promos are being made, previews are being written and odds are being lined up. The majority of the serious bookmakers have released their numbers for the upcoming campaign. From the winners of the league, to those who will relegate. I will discuss them all in this series of articles. Beneath I will discuss the odds, do you agree with them?
The most logical start would be at the top. Who will be crowned champions? It seems that the dust has settled regarding ridiculous transfers and we finally can analyse those at the top. Starting with the most obvious one: Manchester City. The Guardiola era is starting to become a really expensive one: 228 (!!) million euro’s was spend in this transfer window, with only 45,5 million coming in return. The last season was a pretty terrible one for The Citizens with the championship never being a real option with the dominant force Chelsea destroying everything in their sight. City, and especially Guardiola, couldn’t cope with it and decided that their weak points (the wingbacks needed replacement). He didn’t took half measures: Clichy, Kolarov, Zabaleta and Sagna all left the club. Their replacement came with Mendy (€58,0m) , Walker (€51,5m) and Danilo (28.5m). Because of their strengthened backline and newcomers on the different positions: City are the top favourites for the championship according to the bookies: the average odd is 2.82. I do agree that City should be favourites for the title, but not with this margin. The difference between clubs in the top is minimal.
Their red neighbours Manchester United are the next in line. Mourinho orchestrated an pretty disappointing domestic campaign, ending up on a sixth place. The consensus was that United were playing too defensive to keep the title race exciting. To sum up their season: they scored +3 goals in just two home games (against Sunderland & Leicester). “Defensive” and “boring” describes United best, but one the other hand: they did win the Europa League. An achievement on his own, but it also grants a ticket for the Champions League in 2017-18. Mourinho played in a 4-2-3-1 in almost every game with his striker being left alone to fight out any physical battles. Zlatan Ibrahimović went on scoring seventeen in 28 games and basically saving Mourinho from embarrassment, because the Swedish legend has the physique and technique to make it on his own upfront, but does the same goes for his successor Lukaku? I tend to disagree, the Belgian is unbeatable in the air and his physique overall is very impressive. But he isn’t the kind of player who can live without the support of his team-mates. That’s why Mourinho should switch from his defensive, conservative approach to a more open and attacking one, otherwise the championship will be removed from the equation pretty soon in the season. Their chances are still significant and the bookmakers gave them a 4.38 odd for the title.
The number three will be Chelsea according to the bookmakers. Something which I agree with. But one thing makes me weary of them: they are very hard to read. Conte was playing a 3-5-2 in the majority of the matches and easily won the title with their approach. But how will this cope a season later? Manager Conte was very successful with Juventus, 3-5-2 being his most used formation, but there is a big difference. The hegemony of Juventus was significantly bigger than that of Chelsea. Back to their tactics, 3-5-2 is a formation which relies on control and being extremely clinical in the chances you’ll get. And that’s what should be worrying them. What if those chances aren’t being put to bed and the conversion rate is dropping? And when looking at the best eleven from Chelsea: there aren’t many real goal scorers apart from Morata and Hazard. I would place Diego Costa in that same list, but his role at the club is over. Which is a shame, because he and Hazard were the only two players to score 10 or more goals last time out. Their goal scoring abilities could be troubling, but their defensive organisation won’t. With the likes of Kanté, Bakayoko, David Luiz, Rudiger, Azpilicueta and so on. The cohesion in defence is nearly inseparable with this playing style. The odd for another Chelsea title is hovering between 4.40 and 4.43. Very close to United, but now followed by an enormous gap.
The top-3 are truly favourites, because the gap widens after them. Which follow is Tottenham Hotspur, who cruised to the number two position last season and ended up with 86 points. A great achievement, because the number three (City) only acquired 78 points. Slow and steady does the job. The majority of the Premier League sides tend to splash their money, but the Spurs aren’t following and aren’t spending tens of millions per player. They earned 74 million euro’s this window by selling Walker, Bentaleb and Fazio and still haven’t made a big transfer. Which is unnecessary because their team is very-well build. Defensively, the Belgian couple Alderweireld/Vertonghen is arguably the best duo in the Premier League. They do need a second striker, because Vincent Janssen is missing too much qualities to be a reliable stand-in for Harry Kane. Especially because the Englishmen has struggling with injuries throughout his career. Even though he missed eight games, Kane still became the top scorer with 29 goals in 30 games. Tottenham has a fantastic side but do miss some depth in their squad and the gap between them and the top-3 of this list is significant and won’t be solved in one season. But manager Pochettino is in it for the long run and a fourth place would be a very good result for them in this competitive league. Winning the title seems a shot in the dark and the odd represents that: 9.94 for every euro you put on them.
The last two teams with a real shot for the title are Arsenal and Liverpool. Former has been declining throughout the years and should be focussing on getting a top-4 spot instead of the championship. The club is miles behind the real contender, but did close the gap somewhat with newcomer Lacazette. The French striker has proofed throughout the years to a real goal scoring threat and who is keep upping his game. Him, Alexis Sanchez and Mesüt Özil could form a fantastic attacking trio and we will see some mouth-watering games from them. Unfortunately, they are being accompanied by lesser team-mates. Especially the midfield could, and should, have more players of their level. Overall, it’s right up there with Tottenham and our last team on the list. But a title seems out of reach and the bookies agree. Because their odd has been set on 12.65.
Liverpool is closing the line when it comes to realistic title chances, because after them comes Everton (odd 80.5). The Reds have one of the most exciting sides from the top-6. Players such as Mané, Salah, Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino possess so much creativity and vision: it will be a sight to see. Defensively, the could absolutely do better. The wingbacks (Clyne/Robertson) are great, but I’m not having much faith in their centre backs who all have one thing in common: their rigidness and slowness. Lovren, Matip, Sakho and Klavan are not defenders of the level expected and needed from a real title contender. Their backline could be compensated by their ridiculously creative forwards, but only time will tell. Bookmakers gave out an odd of 12.69 for a Liverpudlian title win.
I completely agree with the fact that Manchester are top favourites and should win the league, but you never know in this league. After such a ridiculous transfer window, teams are steadily becoming tougher and tougher. That’s why I don’t agree with such a low odd for Manchester City. On the other hand, the odd for the outsiders is too high. My bet would, of course, go to Manchester City. But I will also place a small bet on a Liverpool title. Such a creative, dynamic team doesn’t deserve such a high odd and therefore their title chances hold value. 12.69 while having the likes of Coutinho, Lallana, Firmino, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Mané, Salah in your team is way too high.
The next article in this series will contain the odds for the top scorer of the league.